Manchester United Looking to Finalise Appointment of New Data Scientist

Ed Woodward
Manchester United Chief Executive Ed Woodward is part of the final selection process for the new role | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Premier League giants Manchester United are set to conclude their search for a new data scientist imminently, although the likely candidates may not have a background in football.

Since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson and former executive David Gill left Manchester United in the summer of 2013, chief executive Ed Woodward has, rightly or wrongly, become the face of the club’s recruitment. However, unlike many European teams and reigning Premier League champions Liverpool, Manchester United do not have a dedicated director of football.

Ed WoodwardEd Woodward
Ed Woodward has borne the brunt of many fans’ ire for a perceived lack of success in recent transfer windows | Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

The club reignited a search for someone who could fill this role in July but appear to be on the brink of improving their recruitment process before the arrival of any director of football.

United’s head of football development, John Murtough, is set to present a handful of applicants for a new data scientist to Woodward and the club’s part-owner Joel Glazer, according to The Athletic.

After beginning the recruitment process several months ago, a decision is thought to forthcoming in the next four weeks, following Glazer’s urged continuation of the search for a data expert despite the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the initial pool of candidates mainly comprised of those with a football background, the club are thought to have opted for ‘a more corporate external hire’. The successful applicant may very well possess experience in the pharmaceutical industry, although this remains to be seen.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Avram Glazer, Joel GlazerOle Gunnar Solskjaer, Avram Glazer, Joel Glazer
Manchester United owners Joel and Avram Glazer with the club’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Whatever field United’s new data scientist hails from, they have been recruited to not only analyse data to enhance both the recruitment and medical departments, but also play a role in the business side of the club.

Joe Pavitt from IBM’s emerging technologies department told The Athletic in February: “What surprised me when I started looking into elite sports a few years ago was how few teams in the Premier League have analysts… There are just three clubs doing it properly that I am aware of: Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester.”

Manchester United’s omission from this list was telling and the hiring of a new data scientist is a clear attempt to try and rectify this glaring weakness.

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